The Events of Muharram 1st as Narrated by Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

The Events of Muharram 1st as Narrated by Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

Muharram, a time of grief and sorrow for the Ahl-al-Bayt (‘a)/Muharram from the viewpoint of Imam Riḍa (‘a)/ The Imam camps at a lodging place called the “Palace of Bani-Muqātil”/ Imam Husayn (‘a) asking ʿUbaydullah ibn Ḥurr to j o i n and help him/ Imam Husayn’s (‘a) remarks to ʿUbaydullah ibn Ḥurr Juʿfī/ ibn Ḥurr: one of those who remained behind/ Imam Husayn (‘a)’s last ultimatum to all the people‌

The human history is replete with countless happy and sad events; it has also witnessed the rise and fall of numerous history-makers. However, it has witnessed very few incidents with consequences and influences as far-reaching and pervasive as the historic event of the 61 Ah. Ashura. Though being filled with the story of many influential men and women, the human history has seen very few history-makers like those exceptional men and women who brought the epic history of Karbala in to existence.[1]

Considering the significance of the event of Ashura, it seems necessary to try to become familiar with its various aspects and dimensions by examining the authentic chronicle of the events of the sacred month of Muharran, using the most reliable resources available.

Through such a careful look at the series of events which culminated in the tragic yet heroic events of the 61st Ah. Ashura one can achieve numerous important goals. One such goal is the enlightenment of all the people, particularly the youth and the educated class, with regard to the various dimensions of this great event of the history of Islam[2]. This will help everyone remember this significant historic event[3] and understand its greatness and profound influence on the history and the religion.[4]


Muharram, a time of grief and sorrow for the Ahl-al-Bayt (‘a)

The first day of the month of Muharram is the New Year’s Day on the lunar Hijrī calendar[5], but it is also the beginning of the time of grief and sorrow for the Ahl-al-Bayt (‘a) and their Shiʻas and followers. It is a time for the remembrance of the sacrifice, bravery, and courage of Imam Husayn (‘a) and his loyal companions in Karbala.[6]

The first day of Muharram also marks the beginning of mourning ceremonies held in commemoration of Imam Husayn (‘a). It is, therefore, incumbent upon all the followers of the Ahl-al-Bayt (‘a) to take part in and uphold these religious rites ever more rigorously. As for the respectable scholars and preachers, they need to explain the philosophy behind the great sacrifice of Imam Husayn (‘a) and his companion and the implication of this sacrifice for the perpetuation of Islam and the Shiʻa school.

They should particularly take extra care in informing the teenagers and the youth about the importance of these ceremonies. At the same time, they must be extra careful to avoid saying and doing things which might undermine the religion or its good reputation.  

Finally, we should all remember that the day of Ashura and the commemoration of Imam Husayn (‘a)’s martyrdom is what has kept Islam alive and imbues it with new vitality every year. Therefore, so long as the mourning ceremonies for Imam Husayn (‘a) are held majestically, Islam will not be undermined or destroyed[7].


Muharram from the viewpoint of Imam Rida (‘a)

According to a tradition, Imam Rida (‘a) has been quoted as saying: “when Muharram arrived, my father would no longer be seen laughing; he was constantly sad and mournful until the tenth day of Muharram that is the day of Ashura; this was the day of much mourning and crying for my father and, as he cried, he said: “this is the day ʿḤusayn (‘a) was martyred!”[8][9]


Muharram 1st: stopping at the Palace of Bani-Muqātil

On the first day of Muharram, the caravan of Imam Ḥusayn (‘a) camped at a lodging place called the “Palace of Bani-Muqātil”[10].[11]


Imam Ḥusayn (‘a) asks ʿUbaydullah ibn Ḥurr to help him in his cause 

At the Palace of Bani-Muqātil, Imam Ḥusayn (‘a) ran in to one of the Arab notables, ʿUbaydullah ibn Ḥurr al-Juʿfī. The Imam (‘a) sent a person called “Ḥajjāj ibn Masrūq al-Juʿfī” to him and asked him to j o i n his caravan and help him in his cause[12]. However, ʿUbaydullah ibn Ḥurr refused Imam Ḥusayn (‘a)’s request[13] and told his messenger: “I left Kūfeh only because I feared I might encounter Ḥusayn and then I would be compelled to help him, though I am unwilling to do so; now there is no one among the people of Kūfah who vowed to help him but who he has preferred the pleasures of the life of this world [and has turned against the Imam]”[14]


Imam Ḥusayn’s remarks to ʿUbaydullah ibn Ḥurr al-Juʿfī

When the Imam was informed of ʿUbaydullah’s refusal, he went to meet him with a number of his companions. ʿUbaydullah welcomed Imam Ḥusayn (‘a) warmly and they began talking.

After praising Allah, Imam Ḥusayn (‘a) said:

[15]أَمَّا بَعْدُ، يَابْنَ الْحُرِّ! فَإِنَّ مِصْرَكُمْ هذِهِ كَتَبُوا إِلَىَّ وَ خَبَّرُوني أَنَّهُمْ مُجْتَمِعُونَ عَلى نُصْرَتي...

O’ ibn Ḥurr! Your townsmen wrote me these letters in which they unanimously agreed to help me and stand by my side and battle against my enemies. They urged me to go to them and so I have set out to j o i n them in their town. But I do not think they keep their promise as they j o i ned my enemy in killing my cousin, Muslem ibn ʿAqīl, and his companions.

They are now allies of my enemy, ʿUbaydullah ibn Ziad who seeks to force me to pledge allegiance to Yazīd. And you must know, O’ ibn Ḥurr, that Allah the Almighty will take you to task for the sins that you have committed in the past; I am now offering you the chance to cleanse yourself of your past sins by repenting before Allah and helping the Prophet’s Ahl-al-Bayt (‘a)[16].

If they give us what is rightfully ours, we will thank Allah and take it, and if they wrongfully gain dominance over us, then you will be our ally in seeking the truth [and either way you will not lose anything][17].



Ibn Ḥurr: one of those who remained behind

ʿUbaydullah ibn Ḥurr replied to the Imam: “O’ grandson of the Messenger of Allah (s)! I swear by Allah that if the residents of Kūfah were still bound by their promise to help you and to fight for you, I would be their strongest and their fiercest against your enemies! But I have witnessed how those who claimed to be your followers fled to their houses in their fear of the Umayyad agents and their swords! So I adjure you by Allah not to ask me for this! I will provide you with whatever financial assistance that I can; accept this horse from me! Whoever I chased with it I overtook and from whatever dangerous situation I fled from, it saved my life! And accept this sword from me too! Whenever I struck something with it, it cut it swiftly!”

Imam Ḥusayn (‘a) said: “يَابْنَ الْحُرِّ! ما جِئْناكَ لِفَرَسِكَ وَ سَيْفِكَ، إِنَّما أَتَيْناكَ لِنَسْأَلَكَ النُّصْرَةَ

O’ ibn Ḥurr! We did not come to you for your horse and sword! We came for your assistance. If you are unwilling to give help us in our cause with your life, you must know that we do not need your horse and sword … I heard the Messenger of Allah say: “whoever hears the voice of my Ahl-al-Bayt asking for help and he does not come to their help, Allah will throw him on his face in to the Hellfire””.

After saying that, Imam Husayn (‘a) got up and returned to his camp with his companions[18].[19]



Imam Husayn’s (‘a) last words of warning to all the people

These profound words by the Imam (‘a) clearly indicate that he had no hope in the people of Kūfah; they also show that he knew for certain that the people of Kūfah were too unreliable and untrustworthy to stay committed to their pledge with him and to rise up to help him.

The fact that the Imam continues his journey despite knowing these facts indicates that he had an important mission to accomplish, and he was intent on accomplishing it with or without anyone helping him[20].

In the meantime, he speaks to whoever he comes across and warns them one last time in order to awaken them and to invite the true believers and those pure in heart to j o i n him in the historic event of Ashura. These exceptional men would then give their lives to strengthen Islam and to expose the hypocrites and the sworn enemies of the religion.[21]




[1] “Ashura: the roots, the motives, the events, and the implications”, p. 29.

[2] Ibid, p. 27.

[3] “The New Mafātīḥ” p. 598.

[4] “Ashura: the roots, the motives, the events, and the implications”, p. 27.

[5] “The New Mafātīḥ” p. 599.

[6] Ibid, p. 600.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Sadūq. Amālī. P. 128, hadith No. 2.

[9] “The New Mafātīḥ”, p. 600.

[10] “Ashura: the roots, the motives, the events, and the implications”, p. 373: “this lodging place is located on the way between ʿAyn al-Tamr and Qutqutāniyyah [a region near Kūfah]; it is known to have belonged to a person called Muqātil ibn Ḥassān”.

[11] Ibid.

[12] For more information refer to: Muqarram. “Maqtal al-Ḥusayn”. P. 188.

[13] “Ashura: the roots, the motives, the events, and the implications”, p. 466.

[14] Ibid, p.374.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid, p. 375.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibn Aʿtham. Al Futūḥ, vol. 5, p. 130-132.

[19] “Ashura: the roots, the motives, the events, and the implications”, p. 376.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid, p. 377.